89.1 WEMU

Willis Patterson: A Man With A Voice And The Conscience To Use It

Feb 24, 2017

Any discussion of African-American culture and history in Ann Arbor should reference the revered vocalist and educator Dr. Willis C. Patterson.  WEMU was honored to host Dr. Patterson as he talked about natural gifts as a singer, his passions for African-American Art Song and sacred music as well his legacy as an educator in public schools, community centers and at The University of Michigan.  After his retirement from the university, he continued to lead the all-volunteer community choir that he founded, The Our Own Thing Chorale.  As he will be stepping down from leading the chorale later this year, it was most timely that Dr. Patterson visited WEMU.

Dr. Willis C Patterson was a professor of music and longtime associate Dean in the School of music at the University of Michigan. Born in Ann Arbor, Professor Patterson graduated from Ann Arbor High school and received his B.MUand M.MU degrees in 1958 and 1959 from the University of Michigan.  He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan as associate professor of music in 1968 and was promoted to full professor in 1971. Much later, at the age of 58, while serving as professor and associate dean, Professor Patterson enrolled at Wayne State University. He graduated in 1993 with a Ph.D. degree in education administration and supervision. Professor Patterson was the charismatic director of the Men’s Glee Club from 1969-1974. His many honors include the Marion Anderson Award for Young Singers (1958) and the Singer of the Year Award from the National Association of Teachers of Singing(1959).  When Professor Patterson returned to Michigan in 1968, he was the first, and for a while, the only-African American member of the music faculty.

In his discussion, Dr. Patterson shared an appreciation for the singers he admired, for those who mentored him and for those who have followed in his artistic and creative footsteps.

Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support.  Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving. — Linda Yohn is the WEMU Music Director, and host of 89.1 Jazz. On twitter @LindaYohn or email her at studio@wemu.org